a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

One Chinese family suffers; no translation necessary

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th May 2008

An NPR team followed a couple of parents back to the rubble of their apartment building in Dujiangyan, and reported it inDujiangyan Parents’ Search for Child:

With some bodies now found, the military was called in. Soon, about three dozen military police arrived in green camouflage fatigues and black rubber boots but with no supplies or equipment. Mrs. Fu and Mr. Wang ran out to buy them cotton gloves and white cotton face masks. Other neighbors brought shovels. Friends brought out a white sheet and told Mrs. Fu they hoped her son and his grandparents would be found alive but just in case, they would tear this sheet into pieces so they could cover the victims’ faces.

Just heard this on NPR. No happy ending here, or for thousands of other Chinese families:

At 4:40 in the afternoon, a worker came out and said, “we’ve found a child.” The parents went limp. “Was he about two, wearing a striped shirt?” the mother cried. The worker nodded. The parents, along with aunts and uncles, sobbed and clutched each other tight. The mother cried out to the worker through her tears one last desperate appeal, “Did you call out to him? Maybe he had just fainted.”

You didn’t need a word of Chinese to know what the parents were crying when the bodies of their boy and his grandparents were finally found. I have a bad feeling there will be far more than the reported 15,000 dead estimated so far. More NPR coverage of the China earthquake at Chengdu Diary.

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Department of followups

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd August 2006

Organ harvesting in China: postscript and followup, 7/19/2006; The perfect crime against humanity?, 7/16/2006 — Respected South China Morning Post (SCMP) reporter Mark O’Neill picks up the Falun Gong organ transplant charge (his piece begins at 5:55 minutes into the podcast), and finds the Kilgour-Matas report “lends extra weight” to the allegations, as an SCMP anchor puts it. O’Neill’s print article is quoted on a China studies listserv:

The report, mainly based on testimony provided by Falun Gong practitioners outside China, concludes that the government and its hospitals, detention centres and courts have since 1999 put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong members, removing their hearts, kidneys, livers, corneas and other vital organs for sale at high prices to local and foreign patients. […]

Three pieces of evidence are the most persuasive. One is official statistics that show a sharp rise in organ transplants since 2000. From 1994 to 1999, there were 18,500, and, from 2000 to last year, 60,000. A tripling of these operations does not prove the allegations, but the harvesting of Falun Gong organs would provide an explanation.

The second is the transcript of an interview by Mr Kilgour in the US with the ex-wife of a surgeon who said that, between the end of 2001 and October 2003, her husband removed corneas from 2,000 Falun Gong patients. […]

The third piece of evidence pointing to the possibility of the harvesting is material from websites offering organ transplants.

Makin’ an honest living, 6/8/2005— Last year the Justice Department suddenly reduced damages it was seeking in a high profile lawsuit against the tobacco industry from $130 billion to — ahem — $10 billion. On July 20, Justice Department political appointee Robert McCallum was deposed about the incident after a June ruling compelling McCallum to do so. Former Justice Department official Sharon Banks — now working for the winner of that ruling, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — charges McCallum misled Congress:

Eubanks said McCallum mischaracterized a court order in his statements to Capitol Hill, making it appear that U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler criticized the government’s embrace of smoking cessation as a remedy in the lawsuit. McCallum cited the judge’s order in explaining why he reduced the government’s request.

Eubanks pointed out that the judge later rejected the tobacco industry’s arguments and allowed Eubanks’ expert witness to testify that the companies should pay $130 billion for smoking cessation.

McCallum claims an appeals court ruling requiring “forward looking” damages dealt a “body blow” to the Justice Department’s case. The DOJ’s Office of Professional Conduct says McCallum was not influenced by political motivations.

Race to save the Lord God Bird, 5/09/2005 — The Chicago Tribune’s Annie Bergman reports (“Birders find no new confirmation of rare woodpecker in Arkansas,” 5/18/2006):

Search teams exploring an Arkansas swamp for better evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker said Thursday they had no new confirmation of the bird’s existence, and wildlife managers said there was no longer a reason to limit public access to the region.

“Certainly we’re somewhat disappointed,” said Ron Rohrbaugh of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. “We’ve had enough of these tantalizing sounds and we still have a lot of hope that there might be a pair, especially in the White River area.”

Srebrenica, 11 years on, 7/11/2006 — Accused Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic is still at large. But Serbia’s bid to join the EU is stalled until Mladic is arrested, and Serbian officials are scrambling to come up with an approach to do so. Even Hague prosecutor Carla Del Ponte seems to think this time it’s for real:

Facing pariah status, Serbia presented EU officials with an “action plan” for Mladic’s arrest earlier this month, hoping that a serious show of effort would placate del Ponte and persuade the EU to restart talks.

“Since the action plan was adopted, I think the political will to arrest Mladic exists for the first time,” del Ponte said. “I would like to see the operational plan and be involved.” […]

The plan has not been made public but it is said to include a media campaign to convince Serbs that it is necessary to arrest Mladic, who is accused of orchestrating the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. A government survey published on Thursday showed 51 percent of those polled opposed Mladic’s extradition, 34 percent supported it and 15 percent were undecided.

To me, this seems more like a way to look like you care about catching Mladic than a way to actually catch Mladic. But what do I know.

NOTES: Follow title links to earlier posts on this blog backgrounding the followups above. The McCallum items are from the AP and the Washington Post’s Pete Yost, respectively. The Mladic item is via a Reuters 7/29 article.
EDIT, 8/27: Listserv name deleted by request.

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Keep your eyes off the ball…

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th April 2003

says honorable blogparent Matt Welch; I hear and obey:

  • 4/7: ANC gets two-thirds majority in South Africa’s Parliament; Prime Minister (and noted HIV/AIDS scholar) Thabo Mbeki now has the power to rewrite the South African constitution. (via UK blog Conservative Commentary)
  • 4/7: Israel allows a settlement in Palestinian Jerusalem (same story referred to below).
  • 4/8: China blocks North Korea resolution in Security Council.
  • 4/9: Hundreds dead in Congo massacres.
  • …and much, much more, via Daniel Drezner, on Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe, etcetera!

    …unless you’re in …

  • 4/7: Palo Alto, where the City Council is considering a ban on eye-rolling. (via Educated Guesswork)
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    Eyes wide shut all around

    Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th January 2003

    Tim Dunlop (“Road to Surfdom”) draws attention to a Baltimore Chronicle article on some reporting done by German reporter Andreas Zumach late last year (“Blühende Geschäfte” — Blossoming business). That report, published in the German newspaper TagesZeitung (aka “TAZ”) provides a list of companies named in the lengthy Iraq report to the UN Security Council last year; as Dunlop rightly mentions, that report was heavily edited before it was forwarded to non-permanent Security Council members.

    As the Guardian account of the report (link via Dunlop) points out, the TAZ list was

    … not clear which companies were claimed to have sold what and whether they had knowingly or unknowingly contributed to Saddam Hussein’s search for weapons of mass destruction. Nor was it clear which sales [by 80 German firms] to Iraq were said to have been made in violation of arms control sanctions imposed by Germany after 1980.

    Tim’s point — and it’s a good one — is more about the lack of curiosity by American media about the redacted Iraqi report. But a reply is to point out a similar lack of curiosity by Tim’s sources, from the Baltimore Chronicle through the Guardian and Independent, about the actual wrongdoing uncovered by the TAZ reports, as opposed to the implications of a list without dates or details. To wit (from “Hubschrauberteile und Prozessortechnologie” — Helicopter parts and processor technology):

    Firms from at least two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Russia and China — carried on direct arms cooperation with Iraq, in direct contravention of UN resolutions, even after the Gulf War of spring 1991 and after the expulsion of UN inspectors (UNSCOM) in the middle of December 1998.

    The Russian firms involved were Livinvest, Mars Rotor und Niikhism (helicopter parts), in 1995, while the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co.

    …equipped Iraqi anti-aircraft facilities with cutting edge fiberglass [communications] equipment, in violation of UN sanctions

    in 2000 and 2001. The TAZ report notes that in 2000 the US companies IBM and AT&T signed contracts with Huawei Technologies Co. for the delivery of processor technology, chips, and electronic switches, as well as for the “optimization” of the Chinese company’s products, and muses

    It can at least not be ruled out that U.S. technology and know-how figured in the improvements to Iraqi anti-aircraft installations by this route.

    There! We knew it! The Guardian was more focused on the possibility the TAZ scoop was engineered by Americans to embarrass the German government, while the report also focused on the German connection, particularly a controversial sale of Siemens high-tech dental equipment with components that might conceivably aid in nuclear weapons development.

    Granted, no one expects much of Russia or China; I expect they’ll do almost anything to Chechens, Tibetans, what have you, or support any old murderous regime from Milosevic to Pol Pot, without much more than a “Russians and Chinese will be Russians and Chinese” from the press, Guardian and Independent included. Heck, no one even expects all that much of German companies. I mean, Siemens? Say no more.

    There was a time when dealing in arms with Iraq was legal, if unsavory. Then there came a time after 1991 when it was illegal. Then there came a time when no matter the provenance of the weapons of mass destruction, they had to be reported fully and cooperatively, and there is some real question whether Iraq is doing so. Then came a TAZ report whose one substantive allegation turns out to be against Russia and China. It’s a little rich (of the media involved, if not of non-German-speaking bloggers) to transmogrify that into another set of vague, veiled accusations against the United States.

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    Call it a hunch

    Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th October 2002

    VOA News: Bush-Jiang Summit May Focus on Iraq, N. Korea Nuclear Issues. Hmm, thanks, might not have guessed that on my own.

    Moving over to the “for what it’s worth” department, China denies helping N. Korean nuclear programme ( lateline news). Given rumors of Pakistani and/or Russian help with the latest North Korean nuclear weapons effort; it may even be true, at least technically. It’s hard to see how China actually benefits from a nuclear armed rogue state on its border.

    Finally, in the “blogger speculation” department (which is what we [don’t] get paid to do, right?) Aziz Poonawalla points to some thinking out loud by Suman Palit (“Kolkata Libertarian”), to the effect that North Korea needs to mind what China tells it to do, and other reasons why North Korea is deterrable and action against it can be postponed. I agree with Mr. Palit about China’s influence on North Korea — should they choose to use it. But there’s the rub; I think “deterrable” in the context of North Korea misses the point. “Deterrence” is about preventing a country from starting a war. What Palit is really talking about is “containable” or “capable of being influenced”, both of which require interested, motivated parties to do the containing and influencing. Palit points to diplomatic pressure by China to get North Korea to return to the 1994 agreement. We’ll see whether that’s pro forma pressure or whether it’s accompanied by threats of reducing fuel shipments to North Korea, the quickest way to bring pain to that government.

    But that assumes China sees a need to do so. It seems likely to me that China has good enough intelligence in North Korea to have not been surprised or alarmed by anything North Korea is doing. But even if they didn’t, the situation may not seem very dire from Beijing’s point of view.

    North Korea has two weapons programs that rightly worry the U.S. and the Western world: its missile program, and its nuclear program. Neither is necessarily threatening to China: to me, the missile program seems likeliest to be intended as a source of foreign exchange, in both the form of covert sales to other countries (a very legitimate worry to the United States), and in the form of forcing dialogue for “aid” with the European Union and the United States. China may see North Korea in this respect the way Toyota sees Hyundai — a competitor, but not a mortal threat — to the extent they are joining that market (I have no idea, to be honest) or likelier the way Sony sees Hyundai, if they don’t. It’s altogether unlikely that the missiles will ever be fired at China, since China’s principal adversaries already have missiles of their own*, and China is North Korea’s only ideological partner and ally to any extent.

    That leaves the nuclear weapons. They, too, are not directed at China; at current levels (zero to two, as near as I can guesstimate from the news), their main military purpose can only be deter an American/South Korean attack; now American troops or (given the missiles) Japanese cities would be under the threat of nuclear retaliation. We may believe the chances of such a U.S. attack are nil; the North Korean military may not. The secondary purpose may again be foreign exchange. Again, there’s not necessarily any compelling interest for the Chinese to intervene, let alone intervene forcefully. Inducements from the United States will be needed for any more than the bare minimum of cooperation in containing and/or reversing North Korea’s weapons programs.

    It’s possible the one result for the Chinese out of all of this is that they want a unified Korea less than ever, since that country will have an active nuclear weapons program; South Korea could probably develop its own in a relatively short time, but there’s nothing like already having a nuclear weapon to get others to quit trying to keep you from getting it — or at least become a lot more careful about trying.

    If you believe, on the other hand, that China is seriously worried about the North Korean weapons programs, my guess is that they could be at the DMZ within [distance from Yalu River to DMZ ] / [20 miles per hour] + [time for lunch and rest stops]; North Korean land defenses “point south” for the most part, not north (except, of course, for those nuclear weapons). Especially with US cooperation — attack and destroy missile sites and weapons facilities — this could be a “just between us superpowers” thing. In an equally unlikely followon scenario, China might actually allow reunification in exchange for dismantling the nuclear program, an ironclad pledge of nonproliferation by Korea — and withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    Taken altogether, that might actually make sense for everyone, and is therefore vanishingly improbable.

    So I’m guessing China won’t do much. Does that mean we must? Not really, and not necessarily before Iraq, if you accept that’s necessary. While China may not be interested in forcing North Korea to do anything, it may be willing to help keep them from exporting weapons by sealing its borders and permitting a focussed blockade of North Korea: no weapons in or out, possibly inspections-on-demand to see what’s going on inside North Korea (but no consequences spelled out). What will be interesting is how much it will take to get even that level of cooperation.

    *Except perhaps Taiwan. I would think even North Korea wouldn’t make that mistake, though.

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